Next to Chicago Cubs fans, I firmly believe New York Islander fans are the most tortured groups of fans anywhere. It's not about a championship drought, it's not even just about just how terrible the team has been since the mid 90s, it's all of the sideshows that have gone along with the organization. Past owners forcing the team to trade away its top talent to save money, past potential owners turning out to be con artists, Mike Milbury
making some of the worst trades of all-time on his own accord (not including his forced salary dumps), insane contracts, the "team approach" to management that led to Neil Smith being forced out after just 6 weeks to promote a back-up goaltender to GM and driving advisors away from the organization, firing broadcasters and censuring the media members for telling the truth about how bad the team is, the list goes on and on.
The Islanders have a decrepit arena and a horrendous lease. From a financial standpoint, that is a huge obstacle to the organization's success. The politicians who just bicker and stall instead of letting progress actually happen toward fixing the arena situation, need to change their tune. The current arena probably doesn't do a whole lot to attract free agents, but I don't think that's what keeps fans from coming to the games. It's the ECHL-caliber on-ice product and constant feelings of betrayal by management as Wang and Snow make horrendous decision after embarrassing horrendous decision.
The fact that anyone shows up at these games is a testament to the passion of Islander fans given how much pain the fanbase has had to endure. While T800 makes his misguided inflammatory post claiming there are no Islander fans on Long Island, it's the furthest thing from the truth, most just can't stomach watching this team anymore. In the early 2000s, when the team had a few successful years after Wang actually invested in improving the on-ice product, attendance was way up. The fans are there, they've just been burned too many times to give unconditional financial support. The problem is, the fans won't come until there are signs that the organization will actually try to improve the on-ice product. Wang doesn't appear interested in doing that until he stops hemorrhaging money from the current arena-lease situation. So we're kind of at an impasse. And with all of the circus around the Islanders, qualified candidates aren't going to want to come in to coach or GM this team (not that I see Garth Snow
being "reassigned within the organization" anytime soon) with a guy as misguided as Wang calling the shots.
In summary, the Islanders need a new arena and a new owner who is both committed to keeping the team on Long Island (although I don't think Queens would be a bad option at all once the lease runs out, especially with the public transportation connections) and smart enough to let hockey people run a hockey team. Only then will the team's on-ice fortunes have any chance of turning around. But the fans are here and they're just dreaming of the day all this hopefully happens.